Why Does My Dog: Pull on the Lead?

Q            My dog pulls on the lead; it’s always tight when we’re out on the walk. It’s as if I’m not there, because he takes no notice of whatever I tell him. Even if I stop I’m hindering his progress to wherever we’re going and sometimes it’s such an awful experience I wonder why I bother to take him out at all. Is there something I can do to make him realise that going for a walk with me is a nice experience?

A            A tight lead and a tense dog can produce unintended consequences, such as over-excitement and boisterous behaviour or aggression to other dogs or people. Walking a dog on a loose lead is a pleasure, so the lead should be a reasonable length – 3 to 5 feet (1m-1.5m) – and should be sturdy enough to give you the feeling that you have control. Longer leads or flexi-leads should not be used on the walk; it sends out the message that it’s a restraint and doesn’t allow much if any communication between you and the dog.

Think of the lead as a means of communication, not just as a means of preventing the dog running away. Dogs pull on the lead, because they haven’t been told not to in a manner that they understand especially if you’re tense and anxious. This type of energy betrays your emotion and sends the completely wrong message down the lead. When you decide it’s time for your dog’s walk, from that moment you must take control. A dog that is rushing around, bouncing up and down getting over excited will take that behaviour out with him and immediately you leave your home he takes control.

So, be determined to be the decision maker from the outset. Be calm and send the signal to your dog that until he calms too, you are going nowhere. Of course, this may take some time initially and may even result in you not going out at that time; if that’s the case, put the lead away and wait a while before you indicate that it’s time for the walk. It can be very frustrating, but dogs pick up signals – both verbal and body language – very quickly. Just remember that pulling you around on the lead is a learned behaviour, it’s been normal for your dog to do so, but now with a calmer, more confident attitude you, as the leader, will be giving your dog a clear indication that unless he listens and watches you, he’ll not be going out until he realises that you’re the boss, not him.

Why Does My Dog: Bite Me?

Q            My puppy Jack Russell is very boisterous and goes mad when I put a collar and lead on her. She’s ten weeks old and bites me when I pick her up. Perhaps I got the wrong breed? Will she always be so aggressive?

A            Our approach to puppies of any breed is generally the cause of them biting us. They’re cute and cuddly, so we want to show our affection and give them everything we think they need to make them happy and love us. It’s a sad situation when puppies bite their adoring owners, but all is not lost. I would suggest that you take a step back and let her see that biting you won’t work. It’s her way of trying to control you, just as she would have done with her siblings in the litter. Handling/touching a dog is reward in itself; it is in fact our primary means of giving acknowledgement, praise and affection. It’s really high value to a dog and if we give attention that is not earned we are falling into the trap of reducing our status in the dog’s mind. Expect your puppy to earn everything: her meals, cuddles, playtime etc. Ask her to “sit”, “come” or give you her immediate attention – “watch!”. That will put a higher value on you and what you give her. In addition, ensure that she is adequately socialised with other dogs and people.

Contact Sue at Essex Dog Academy if you need more help on 07867 988 711

Why Does My Dog: Ignore Me?

Q            I give my dog everything she needs: love, care, the best food, exercise – she lacks for nothing, yet I feel there’s a missing link. It’s as if she decides not to hear what I tell her and she sometimes chews things like my shoes or chair legs! I just don’t know what more I can do.

A            Sorry to say so, but it sounds like your dog doesn’t respect you, despite being the provider of everything she needs. Dogs test our limits, treating us as equals and sometimes they are totally perplexed as to what we want of them. We need to be the decision-makers; be decisive and correct unwanted behaviour to enable the dog to have clear guidance. Many dogs are confused by our actions and body language; when they do things we don’t want them to we are often afraid of hurting their feelings, which perpetuates the confusion. We get frustrated, we may shout or get angry, but all this serves to do is perhaps stop the behaviour at the time, not solve the problem. This is the route to long term bad behaviour and the breakdown of communication between us and our dogs.

For a dog to adopt good behaviour, manners and respect for us, we must show sound leadership, just like a good manager does in the workplace. Making calm, measured decisions is essential for any company to function at its optimum level; similarly so, we must be calm and confident so that what we do radiates to our dogs. Assertiveness illustrates that we are in control and your dog will thank you for it. Very few dogs want to be leaders, in fact most prefer to follow, similar to the number of employees in relation to employers. There has to be a decision maker in families, companies, government, schools and of course amongst dogs.

So as well as providing all your dog’s physical needs, go one step further and provide the missing link, that is, make the decisions so that your dog will feel protected and show that you are trustworthy. Set down some rules and boundaries within your home and relationship. Take the grey areas out of your relationship and I am sure that when she knows exactly what you want she’ll give you the respect that she wants to give you and you deserve. She may love you even more!

Dogs in Cars

Dogs in Cars

Most dogs are happy to jump into cars knowing that journey’s end will bring excitement, new terrain and the chance to explore.

Laws have been enacted to safeguard children when travelling in cars, however, no such provision is made for dogs, so here are a few suggestions that may just make your dog’s – and your – journey a little happier and safer.

  • Secure your dog into the car with a safety harness, to ensure that he doesn’t become a missile: Sharp braking can project a dog forward, towards or through the windscreen. It will also stabilise him and help to prevent travel sickness. A travel cage/kennel is useful to help your dog feel comfortable during transit.   An added benefit is that a dog is less likely to bark at other dogs, cyclists or passersby.
  • When going on a long journey, plan to stop regularly to ensure that your dog can be given water and the chance to make himself comfortable. Avoid feeding him before the journey – remember it can take several hours to digest food, more if he’s excited.
  • Always allow plenty of ventilation during the journey and also when you stop. Never leave your dog in an unventilated car, even in cold weather – winter sun heats up cars just the same as solar panels.
  • Keep the volume of your car radio or music to a modest level – remember your dog’s hearing is much more acute than yours.
  • Plan ahead and the journey for you and your dog will be a good experience for you both.

Why does a 6 year old GSD Bitch often mount 5 year old GSD Male?

Q            My six-year-old spayed German Shepherd bitch often mounts my entire male Shepherd, who is a year younger. She shows no aggression, but why does she do this?

 

A            Quite simply she is asserting herself over the dog. By placing her paws on the dog, she is sending a message that she is dominant and intends to keep him as the lower ranking pack member. Mounting is commonly seen between same sex dogs in order to establish procreation rights – the stronger dogs and bitches are those that mate within packs. Young dogs often mount each other during the onset of puberty, when their systems experience a hormonal surge and they try to establish seniority. Dogs may also attempt to mount their human owners in a bid to elevate their status if the owner appears weak to the dog. It is generally thought that spaying or neutering will stop such dominant behaviour, however, this is obviously not always the case. In my experience, a sharp word to the dominant dog is all that is required to stop the behaviour; obedience training to a reasonable standard when dogs are young (particularly) will enable a competent owner to do this. As an alternative, distract them by making a sharp sound and giving a firm command “no” or “off”.  However, if you are distressed by it, I suggest that you contact Sue Gilmore, a highly experienced and qualified professional dog behaviourist, to help you overcome these episodes, which would appear to be harmless and dogs being dogs in this case.

 

Why Does My Dog: Fear Men?

Many dogs are apparently fearful of men, even those dogs that seemingly have no reason to be. Perhaps the most common reason is that as a puppy he was not socialised with men so they are an unknown quantity. Men are generally bigger than women, have deeper voices and are often physically stronger, which may be threatening to a fearful dog. The pheromones given off by men are different to those of women, they also use different personal hygiene products and given that dogs have a very sensitive sense of smell, puppies are brought up by their mothers whose comforting smell of oestrogen remains hard-wired into their olfactory systems throughout life; their fathers tend to be absent during this period of nurturing.

Another possibility is that puppies tend to trigger maternal instincts in women; they naturally want to comfort puppies whereas men tend to be more assertive and want to be playmates.

On a positive note, if your dog is fearful of men, as a  professionally qualified behaviourist Sue Gilmore will be able to help you resolve the problem so that your dog can be calm and relaxed around all visitors and when men approach outside the home.

 

Why does my puppy Jack Russell chase her tail?

 

Tail chasing is quite common in puppies; some seem to not realise that it is actually attached to their body! It can be a way of expending energy or an expression of boredom. Most puppies tend to grow out of the habit, but not all. When people laugh at the dog, they are actually fulfilling the dog’s attempt to get attention.

Terriers as a breed are prone to tail chasing, more than others, so it may be in their genes, but it can become a compulsive disorder – the result of confinement for long periods, trauma, physical abuse or separation anxiety, for example. When the dog catches its tail it can cause quite serious damage and injury. When you see your dog about to start an episode of chasing her tail, try to distract her; use some of her energy up by exercising her or doing some training.

It is always wise to have her checked by a vet if her compulsion often occurs and certainly if she is harming herself.